It’s impossible to predict the news. But one thing you can bet on in 2014: there’ll be plenty of bare-knuckles politics to cover.
In Hamilton County alone, 31 partisan seats are up for grabs in the May 6 primary. And that doesn’t include the non-partisan school board and judicial seats, which will be decided in the August.
We’ve got three big elections coming: The May 6 county primary; the Aug. 7 election, which is the local general election and the state primary; and the Nov. 4 general election, during which some municipal races also will be decided.
In the Times Free Press circulation area, we’ll cover races in Tennessee and Georgia for offices that range all the way from the U.S. Senate to county clerk.
Some of the races to watch:
• U.S. Sen Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has held his seat since 2003, faces a primary challenge from tea party-backed state Rep. Joe Carr. Democrat hopeful Terry Adams, a Knoxville attorney, also is a candidate for the office.
• In the 4th Congressional District, state Sen. Jim Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican, is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais. Details from DesJarlais’ 2001 divorce trial, in which he said he supported his first wife’s two abortions — are likely to reappear. It’s worth remembering that DesJarlais easily defeated Democrat Eric Stewart for the seat two years ago after these allegations were first made public.
• And look for a possible brawl between Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth and state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who is not seeking reelection to the House in order to run against the incumbent sheriff. Ruth has already fired a shot across the bow, and so far, this race looks like it’s the most likely to get ugly.
• Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond also faces a possible high-profile and formidable challenger: recently retired Chattanooga police chief Bobby Dodd. That race, which also may include Hamilton County Sheriff Sgt. Chris Harvey, could be an interesting one to watch. Anytime you’ve got two seasoned law enforcement officers competing for the same seat, it’s bound to be lively. Both Hammond and Dodd are known for speaking their minds.
• Curtis Adams, who was a member of the Hamilton County Commission for 22 years, is seeking to regain his District 8 seat, now held by Tim Boyd. Democrat Rusty Munger is also running.
• In Georgia, Dalton Mayor David Pennington is taking a shot at the state’s highest seat. He’s challenging fellow Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. The race for the governorship also includes a high-profile candidate on the Democrat side, Jason Carter, grandson of former president Jimmy Carter and a member of the Georgia Legislature.
Even though there are plenty of high-profile races featuring interesting individuals, state and local initiatives — which include some divisive and emotional issues — may get more attention from voters. Hot ones:
• Chattanooga voters will decide on the domestic partner benefit ordinance approved by the City Council. Local conservative group Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency collected more than 7,000 valid signatures to get the measure onto the ballot.
• Tennesseans will decide whether to ban a state personal income tax (except for the Hall income tax now in effect). The state has no general state income tax, but two previous governors — one a Republican and the other a Democrat — have pushed for such a levy in the past.
• Tennessee’s ballot also will feature a state constitutional amendment allowing state lawmakers the authority to enact new abortion restrictions.
This isn’t a presidential election year, which means voter turn-out will be lower. However, we still are making important decisions and the outcome of the election is critical. The people we elect determine how much we’re taxed, where our tax money is spent and have the power to enact regulations that could impact our day-to-day lives.
Alison Gerber is editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at agerber@timesfree press.com.